Sunday, 16 October 2011

9. My Kids, Students

 Where are you now, my kids?
      I really miss you all. How can I forget you all, who love me, listen to my words, and behave as I like?
      I, teacher, don’t easily find the kids like you all, who are clever and well behaved. Now I meet other people who don’t like you. So I want to see you, my kids.
      I was too proud and arrogant when the monk introduced me to you all as a volunteer science teacher because I saw over 70 students instead of 10-15 students that I had expected. Oh! I was so surprised and simultaneously too active to be a teacher. When each of you made a gesture of respect by putting the palms together, raising them to the level of breasts and said “Good Morning, teacher”, I had goose fleshes with satisfaction. In fact, it was the time that I wasn’t sure how much the best I would teach and control the class of that amount of students.
      “ Good morning my kids! I was not a schoolteacher. I voluntarily served as the monk asked me to find a volunteer teacher. It was 12 years that I was estranged from the subject, science of the eighth standard. The present textbook of the eighth standard was quite different from the past one, which we took at eighth standard. And I had just scanned the textbook now. So, I had some weakness. I tried to teach you all. Please point out the mistake if I do. There was an only thing I wanted to request you. I would teach you full fixed time, as I hadn’t extra time. Please pay attention to my teaching this full time. Let me own this particular time when you all and me were here together. And please pay attention to me only. You and me all together pay attention to the subject, science. Now, lets start.”
      I scanned the whole class thoroughly when I talked to them who were silent. On that day, I knew that you all could become my kids really.
      Actually, the monk is used to beat kids. He taught both English and Mathematics. If kids failed to answer his question, he punished them by beating with double canes. I thought how I would punish if you failed in Science.
      I wanted to teach you to know what is science. I didn’t want to punish you when you failed. It was so called my weakness. In other words, I was stubborn.
      Eventually I decided. I had to try hard to know and want to know my kids more about science as much as I can. I never used those canes. And even I never scold them. At least I never asked one kid to stand and answer my question because I didn’t want to see your ashamed face when you took sometime to think about answer embarrassedly.
      This is my sympathy. I was really considerate that most of my kids were nearly at my age as they failed the eighth standard again and again.
      Other fact is that I could not accept any punishment, which changed effectively the feelings or hurt the personality of a person- kid or adult. I wanted to teach and rectify my kids by best and most smooth way. It was my dream. I told the monk about my way. “ I myself had to tell my kids about their progress in science. Please you didn’t tell anything about science.”
      We, you all and I, loved intimately as the time had gone. I was surely pleased with my kids- some kids were waiting at the bus stop at morning 6:30 to greet me, one pity kid whom I met -after long time no seen - when I bought the sticky rice from her as I was hungry and didn’t take breakfast, some kids who went along with me to the bus stop on the way to downtown. Although I learned by heart my kid’s eyes which were full of purity, honesty and affection, I was highly pleased each and every time I saw them.
      It was as usual that they talked each other when I was teaching. How could I say “Shut up” and how strength did I have to hit the table with the duster? I stopped the lesson, shut up my mouth, and sat as an angry elder sister. After that, they became silent, as they were always aware of my wish. No. I still stopped the teaching. I sat sullenly for 5 minutes. Sure! They looked sadly at me. They didn’t move, talk and even sigh. Through this whole 5 minutes, I tried to overcome my anger, then, got my smile from deeper part of my heart and said “  Well. If you had anything important to tell each other, please continue to tell. I would like to wait until my turn to teach.” 
      I taught myself to say them with the voice of having kindness and wanting to prioritize their concerns without sulkiness and perverse speech. Therefore, when they heard my words, some silent girls couldn’t stop their tears and some kids suddenly and said “ we were wrong, teacher. Please continue to teach us.” Their voice quivered with emotion. I hoped they understood that I tried to teach myself first not to be anger, and teach them later to be happy.
      Yes, we did. I continued to teach actively as usual and you concentrated on the lesson happily and delightfully. Between affection of yours and mine cane, duster and anger had to be changed to smoke.
      I thought that day was not forgotten by all of us. That day was the day when I didn’t teach anything about science. Although I always taught full time, on that day through 1 hour and 15 minutes I talked how I felt sad and what I wanted them to do.
      That day was day when I gave your answers back to you after my pretest. I myself arranged the pretest 2 weeks before your school’s first midterm test. After correcting the answers, I cried.
      “Yesterday night I cried when I corrected your answers. There was no failure in my life. Now I failed. I defeated. Really. Among all of you, there were only 10 kids who passed the exam. The rest failed. Your failure is my failure. In my life, I had failed once. I was really sorry. In the past, I never felt sad like now. I couldn’t sleep yesterday night and thought. What’s wrong with me? How poor was I? Why did I fail? What changes would I have to take?
      Now, I taught you the lesson up to the midterm course. I even did second time revision. I taught all the lesson and never questioned from the lesson which I never taught. Why did you fail? Why? Didn’t you understand what I taught? Did you lie ‘we understand’ but you didn’t?
      “No. We understood”
      They knew that most of them failed the test according to their answer papers, which I gave recently. Their faces became smaller and smaller with sadness. They were worried.
      “Why did you fail if you understood? Today I wanted to say something. To arrange the test was not mean that I wanted to relieve from hard working, or didn’t want to teach you. I wanted you to know how I did my homework for you all. First, I looked for 10 question sets for 10 years eighth standard’s final exams. And I kept aside the questions from midterm course. Then I looked for the most frequently asked questions. For question number one- 20marks question-, I chose 10questions of 2 marks from those 8 lessons, which we learned. After that for question number 2, there must be 2 questions with choice. You had to choose one question, which you like, and each had 16 marks. I chose in order to suit for giving time and frequent asking. The rest were 4 numbers of 8 marks questions and 4 numbers of 4 marks questions. I prepared them from rest of the midterm course after keeping aside one that was already questioned. The other fact was that I had spent a lot of time for balancing hard questions and easier questions. It was too bad to ask too easy questions or too hard questions. We, teachers, had to balance between quite easier accessibility of poor students and little harder accessibility of bright students in the purpose of well standard question set. Although my test was not the one of your schools, it should be like school’s one. Hence, I prepared you ready for real exam. My dear kids, I took this exam first before you did. I wanted to get a fair marking scale for my test- how many marks for both required facts, and, handwriting and tidiness. Even though myself only corrected your answer papers, I tried to get a fair and right marking scale until midnight.  Now..tell me true! What’s wrong with me? What I had to correct?”
      I knew that you all were choked and didn’t say anything responding to me. Let me continue.
      “Did I correct your papers easily on yesterday? No. At school, a teacher corrected only one definite number of questions. For instance, if a teacher corrected question number one, he or she corrected all student’s answer number one. Thus, he or she could balance the competent answers of question number one of all students and gave fair marks. Yesterday, only me corrected all answer papers of you in serial order- from question number one of all students first, then question number two of all, then question number three of all…- After I finished, I took total marks and then I cried.”
      At that time , some girls really cried. They cried. They felt sad. They regretted.
      “Now, you should tell me what’s wrong with me. Was my teaching slow or fast? Didn’t you understand? Why did you fail? Was I poor?”
      I was choked because they shouted together very sadly.
      “Of course. Who was wrong? Who didn’t learn hard?”
      “We were wrong. We didn’t learned back at home.”
      I hardly tried to smile when they cried. In fact, some kids had not extra time at home to learn the lessons, but they had to help their people to make a living. I knew that but please understand my good intention for you all, my kids.
      “ Enough. I was pleased to hear that.”
      I smiled heartedly.
      “So, I would prepare another test next week. I wanted to try next time. How about you? Would you like to try again?”
      “Yes, We would try. We wanted to do.”
      I kept my index finger in front of my lips because I was worried about waking up of the monk according to my kid’s loud voice. Now they changed back to my real kids.
      I controlled you all without beating you, without using the duster, and without scolding you. Is it meant that I was clever or you were clever?
      At that time, myself impressed me. I had high opinion on me because I could manage my kids to get science distinctions at school final exam with my loving kindness, benevolence and cleverness, but without any cane or duster.
      It was over half decade. I hoped that I was getting older and being calmer than before. Then my surrounding was changed. At that time you were teenagers who were hard to be controlled. Now, I am passing many challenges and life exams, which are really different from school exams, with many people beyond teenage. I still keep in hand the concept of “by avoiding violence, keeping affection, sharing feelings and recognizing sympathies, we would win the universe” – which had already kept since I was young. Getting older make me more desire to keep this concept.
      But, my kids, didn’t they find or did they pretend not to find the depth of my affection, benevolence, sacrifice and feelings through the language of my eyes and lips like you all? I have not yet found that understanding and cooperation from you, my kids, among my surroundings.
      I have just known. Real clever and good ones are you, my kids- you could understand, feel and cooperate even you were too young.
      In fact, my kids, you are real good and clever.
   Ma Thida (Sanchaung)
1999, December, Mahaythi magazine.
That was translated by author herself and polished by Anna Allott.

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